Decimating a country via a bottomless arsenal of elite military technology is easy. Rebuilding a country after the storm amid political inefficacy, raging insurgency and ongoing warfare is the tricky part. It is also the focus of today’s morning lecturers.
At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Stuart Bowen, former special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction, and Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy, will discuss how to rebuild Iraq under its inept regime, growing terrorist presence of the Islamic State group and constant bloodshed.
“Iraq is in chaos,” Bowen said. “It’s been in varying degrees of chaos since June 10 of last year when Mosul fell to ISIL. At this moment, it’s in political chaos as well because of significant actions taken by Haider al-Abadi to remove his deputy prime ministers and his vice presidents. That is part of a response to the Iraqi people’s call for reform, specifically for an improved, increased or at least incipient fight against corruption.”
There are roughly 3,500 U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq; Bowen thinks a full-scale military return to Iraq is all but inevitable.
“Make no mistake about it: we are engaged militarily in support of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces that are trying to push the Islamic State forces back,” he said. “But if you’re asking, ‘Will that engagement expand?’ I’d say it’s likely. While we’ve made some progress, we haven’t made enough progress.”
On the other hand, Hamid believes that the only way to bring stability to the country is to install a democratic government.
While it sounds like tired rhetoric, that’s because Hamid said it was used exclusively as a rhetorical advice during the Bush presidency, yet never put into action.
“It is safe to say that the Bush administration’s project to promote Middle East democracy failed,” Hamid said in an article for the Hoover Institution. “It failed because it was never really tried. With the exception of a brief period in 2004 and 2005 when significant pressure was put on Arab regimes, democracy promotion was little more than a rhetorical advice.”
The Islamic State group has largely undone much of the work done to rebuild Iraq, Bowen said. After the U.S. pulled out of the country, he said former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did an insufficient job continuing the fortification of military needs, which left forces vulnerable.
Likewise, Bowen said the country is and will continue to be harmed by widespread corruption throughout its government structure.
“Corruption has daunted Iraq since 2003,” he said.
Besides the recent reclaiming of Tikrit, Bowen said there has not been much success in Iraq given the Islamic State group’s current holds on Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah.
Looking forward, Bowen said, the situation in Iraq is not a promising one. Even recent allegations that the terrorist group used chemical weapons on Kurdish forces won’t catalyze U.S. military intervention, he said, but it demonstrates the raw evil and lawlessness the group expresses.
“It certainly demonstrates that there are no limits to the evil that ISIS will commit, and we should expect more of the same,” Bowen said.